Major technology companies adopt new Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation

Monday February 22, 2021: Today the Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI) launched a new code of practice that commits a diverse set of technology companies to reducing the risk of online misinformation causing harm to Australians.

The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation has been adopted by Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Redbubble, and TikTok.

All signatories commit to safeguards to protect Australians against harm from online disinformation and misinformation, and adopting a range of scalable measures that reduce its spread and visibility.

Participating companies also commit to releasing an annual transparency report about their efforts under the code, which will help improve understanding of online misinformation and disinformation in Australia over time. The first set of reports will be released by DIGI in May.

“This new code of practice has seen a diverse set of digital companies collaborate with each other, Government, academia and civil society to propose solutions to the incredibly complex challenges of misinformation and disinformation online,” DIGI Managing Director Sunita Bose said.

“People misleading others, or people being misinformed, are not new problems — but the digital era means that false information can spread faster and wider than before,” DIGI Managing Director Sunita Bose said.

“In this code, we’ve worked to get the balance right with what we think people expect when communicating over the Internet. Companies are committing to robust safeguards against harmful misinformation and disinformation that also protect privacy, freedom of expression and political communication.”

DIGI developed this code with assistance from the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Media Transition, and First Draft, a global organisation that specialises in helping societies overcome false and misleading information.

“First Draft analysed the latest case studies and trends in Australia to help inform this code, as tools and techniques used to produce and distribute misinformation and disinformation have evolved rapidly in the past year. The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation recognises the need to work transparently in conjunction with all stakeholders, as there is much work to be done together in order to help communities thrive online,” Anne Kruger, Asia Pacific Director of First Draft said.

The Code was developed in response to the Australian Government policy announced in December 2019, where the digital industry was asked to develop a voluntary code of practice on disinformation, drawing learnings from a similar code in the European Union.

Unlike the EU code, the Australian code has an expanded focus on harmful misinformation, as well foundational commitments that all signatories must adopt. Like the EU code, it offers additional opt-in commitments that companies can choose if they’re relevant to their business.

For platforms that offer advertising, there’s a commitment to address disinformation in paid content. The code also contains commitments to address fake bots and accounts that spread disinformation, and other commitments to help Australians know more about the source of content they see online, in both news and factual content, and political advertising. The code encourages the digital industry to partner with universities and researchers.

DIGI undertook an extensive consultation process to inform the final code of practice, seeking submissions from the public and input from academic and civil society experts. A summary of the feedback received from submissions and how it has been addressed has also been published today, along with all submissions, and the full code of practice.

The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation is available for download at digi.org.au/disinformation. A 2-minute explainer video about the code is here. For media enquiries, please email press@digi.org.au

DIGI is a non-profit industry association that advocates for the interests of the digital industry in Australia. DIGI’s vision is a thriving Australian digitally-enabled economy that fosters innovation, a growing selection of digital products and services, and where online safety and privacy are protected.